Tariq was out late that Friday night. By the time he returned to his house the rays of the morning light were starting to infiltrate the sky over Scunthorpe. The natural light took away the reflective orange glow of the steel works and replaced it with a slowly increasing gentle lightening of the sky. The town was quiet now, there was little movement on the roads and the partiers and late night drunks had by and large made their way home or to were ever they would be spending the last few hours of the night sleeping. On the back of one of the benches a cock blackbird perched. He ruffled his feathers and slightly drooped his wings before starting to sing his greeting to the day and the proclamation of his ownership of this part of the street. His bright yellow bill chattering with his song. When he finished his song he flew away from the bench and between the houses towards the few patches of green gardens that remained behind the houses. He knew that the sparrowhawk would also be looking for his breakfast and working his way along the gardens and alleyways. The black birds ownership was proportionate and dependant on the tenure that the predators allowed him.
Tariq parked the Jaguar in the street outside of his house and stepped out into the growing morning light. As he looked down the street his car was the best in the street. It breathed the style and presence that was part of the new Tariq Hasni. No longer a street gang member but now a respectable businessman. He soon would invest in a couple of houses and maybe a restaurant. Then, when he could, he would move out of this house and into one of the bigger houses on Doncaster Road or maybe Normanby Road. Yes, his time was coming, he was arriving.
He walked to the front door of his house and as he did so he turned and locked the car. He just loved the solid click of the central locking on the jaguar. Felt and sounded like quality. He opened the front door of his house and stepped in. Whilst the light was gathering outside his flat remained gloomy and dark. Closing the door behind him he turned and reached for the light switch. The room was washed with the sterile white light of the bulb. Tariq dropped his keys on the small table beside the door and thought that a quiet beer on his own would be a pleasant end to the evening. Turning to walk through the room he became aware of Hicks. Hicks was stood in the middle of the lounge. Tariq knew Hicks, he lived on the same street. Hicks was wearing a simple cotton tracksuit in pale grey. There was no mask, no disguise. Tariq noticed that Hicks wore a pair of blue latex gloves.
Hicks did not speak, he watched Tariq, stood easily and calmly. Fear started to grow in Tariq. Why was he here? Why didn’t he hide his face? Why wear the gloves?
“Get the fuck out of here” Tariq said, he wanted his voice to be strong and commanding but instead his voice betrayed his fear and wavered.
“No Tariq, that won’t be happening.”
“Why are you here?” Tariq asked.
“Well, me and you are going to have a short drive out and then we will have a chat” Hicks was calm and contained.
“Are you going to hurt me?” Tariq asked, scared.
“Yes.” Replied Hicks, he knew he was going to hurt Tariq so badly.
“Are you going to kill me?” Fear was painted on Tariq’s features, his strong Asian features had drained of colour and he was an ashen grey colour.
“That depends on our chat, but maybe”.
Tariq moved slowly his right hand outstretched and leaning against the table he had just put his car keys in. Hicks watched his movement and allowed it to continue.
“What will we talk about” Hicks knew that Tariq was stalling for time, he also knew why he was.
“You know, business and stuff”. Hicks replied.
In his mind Tariq was trying to work out if he could open the table drawer before Hicks could get to him. Hicks glanced to the window, the curtains were open and the light was on inside the house, this would make him more visible to anyone looking into the house. He turned obliquely to the window so his face could not be clearly seen.
As Hicks moved this was the chance that Tariq had been waiting for, Hicks was distracted for just a second, that was enough, he thought. Quickly and smoothly Tariq opened the drawer and pulled out the pistol. He raised the pistol and pointed it directly at Hicks. The muzzle of the browning hipower looked huge the nine millimetre barrel looked to gape wide open to Hicks. Tariq loved the browning, it had been part of a deal he had done for a white girl he had supplied to a group of Kurdish men. It had been a sweet deal, she was young, they were very grateful. In the holdall with the money they had also left some coke and this pistol. It was in excellent condition with the serial numbers milled off and refinished with a silver inlay. He cleaned it regularly and when he could get ammo for it he practised his shooting.
“I am going nowhere with you, white cunt”. Tariq laughed, the power had changed and now he was the one calling the shots, quite literally. Once he squeezed the trigger and the hammer fell the hollow point bullet would smash into Hicks. The bullet would travel the full width of his body causing massive damage and exit his back.
Hicks slowly lifted his arm to the side parallel to the floor at shoulder height. He opened his clenched fist. The ten rounds from the chamber and the magazine dropped to the floor and bounced lightly on the laminate flooring.
Tariq had watched the hand open, the fingers extend slowly and the small brass cylinders of the rounds tumble end over end onto the floor. As they fell, in the fractions of a second before they got to the floor, he understood what this meant. The pistol in his extended arm felt unbearably heavy as his arm dropped back to his side and the gun dropped onto the floor. He exhaled and his shoulders slumped.
“Nice browning, I have used them a lot, good weapons.” Hicks commented as Tariq watched his every move and the formation of every syllable from Hicks’ lips.
Hicks stepped, over the pistol rounds on the floor and towards Tariq. “Time for me and you to go for our little drive out in the countryside, Tariq”
“Where are we going?” asked Tariq, he thought the more information he could illicit from Hicks the better, it would help him to find him later.
“I have an industrial unit out at Santon, the problem is we can’t drive straight there through the steel works because of the CCTV cameras”.
Maybe if he spoke to his captor enough he might make some kind of human bond that might make a difference and save his skin.
“Please can you put your hands together and in front of you?” Hicks politely asked Tariq. Who duly obliged. Hicks removed a long and thick black cable tie from the sleeve of his tracksuit and looped it around Tariq’s wrists and pulled it tight. The plasticuff, pulled tight cut into the skin of his wrists and he let out an involuntary gasp. In his mind he had determined to resist whatever Hicks did, he would not make this easy for him. And so when he heard his own gasp he was disappointed.
“Yes, it’s pretty tight. When we get to my lock up you will be ready for that to come off, it will cut the circulation off to your hands. Maybe that will be enough to get our chat going.”
Hicks picked up the keys to the Jaguar. Tossed them in the air and put them in his pocket. “I have always fancied one of these, I bet it’s nice and quick”. He crouched down and picked up the browning. Then turned on his heal and took the few steps to pick up the rounds on the floor. He quickly loaded the magazine with the rounds. “Nice rounds these hollow points, highly effective man stoppers.” Loading the magazine into the pistol he pushed the pistol into his hoodie pocket. The weight of the pistol pulled the slack grey cotton down at the front. Hicks pulled a scarf from round his neck and covered his lower face and pulled his hood up. Only his eyes and nose were visible.
Tariq saw him covering his face. He had allowed Tariq to see his face but now he covered it to prevent others from seeing it. It dawned on Tariq that Hicks didn’t conceal anything from him. Tariq understood that Hicks was not concerned about what he might or might not see because he would never be able to tell.
“Let’s go.” Hicks opened the door and they stepped into the street. He opened the jaguar using the remote control and walked with Tariq across to the car.
In a house opposite Mrs Hussein was up early. On a Saturday morning she like to get up and go to the grocers to get her veg fresh. Mrs Hussein came to Scunthorpe in 1963 as a young woman with her husband. He had worked in the steel works for the next forty years before he retired. They came from a village in Bangladesh and had kept themselves to themselves, her husband was one of the Mosque committee and she viewed him as an important part of the community. She watched out of the window as Tariq was lead to his car by a man she didn’t know. The man with the hood was not a teenager, she couldn’t see his features but he was a solid and deep chested shape that moved with an assurance and confidence of a mature man. She saw the fear in Tariq’s face and she saw that although there was a jacket over his wrists in front of him they were tied together.
She had seen Tariq grow up, when he was a little boy he was a lovely boy, respectful and polite. Then Mr Hasni had returned to Pakistan. Mrs Hasni struggled with young Tariq and he became a surly youth, he lost his respect. Mrs Hussein watched his behaviour get worse and worse, watched him start to hang about with the gangs on the street corners. The whole community knew that Tariq was involved in the drugs and prostitution that had blighted the area. So when she saw the hooded stranger leading Tariq to his flash new car she didn’t open the door and challenge him, she didn’t call her husband to phone the police, she turned and went back to the kitchen and switched on the kettle. She would have a cup of tea before walking to the shop. Tariq had it coming to him.
This was the first time that Tariq had sat in the comfortable cream leather passenger seat of the Jaguar. His wrists were starting to hurt now. He had seen the plasticuff before, he had used them during his sex games in the past. When this man had pulled them tight he felt the skin underneath them burn with the friction. The circulation had been cut off. Initially he had pins and needles in his fingertips, the discomfort had grown and spread into a slow but deep burn in his fingers then into his palms. The burn was deep and throbbed. He felt real fear for the first time in his life.
“My hands hurt”. Tariq looked at the hooded stranger beside him. He knew this man from Acheron Street. He had seen him out running.
“Yes, I am sure they do”. Hicks replied.
“What is this all about?” Tariq asked.
“My name is Stu Hicks, my friends call me Sticks. My wife is called Di. She has a niece called Rhianna.” Hicks pulled his hood down and pushed his scarf down from his face. He turned and faced Tariq. “You see, Tariq, I know that your people have Rhianna. I know, you know where she is. I also know that you will tell me where she is so I can go and get her.”
“I can’t tell you anything” Tariq spoke quietly and softly, “If I tell you then they will kill me”.
“It is quite likely that I will kill you anyway, so if you want to survive start talking to me and we can try to get keep you alive.” Hicks informed him matter of factly.
Tariq looked out of the window of the car and saw the fields passing by. It was light now, the clouds were breaking up as the orange disc of the sun started to claw itself into the autumn sky. A few whisps of early morning mist shrouded the stubble fields on the flat of Trent valley. Geese were flying in to feed on the discarded corn laying on the surface of the stubble, they seemed impossibly big and heavy to fly. It was the first time Tariq had taken any notice of them. He had seen them flying over the town, high and arrowing through the deep blue of the autumn skies. He had not seen the beauty of their flight before. A group of them flew low over the stubble and flared their mighty wings open to land. The transition between the powerful flight and landing was a clumsy flapping of huge wings and massive webbed feet. Tariq promised himself to take notice of the beauty around him, if he came out of this alive.
“Where are we going?” Asked Tariq.
“I have a lock up down in Gunness.”
Hicks pulled the car up to a compound and unlocked the gate. The compound was surrounded by a large palisade fence of eight foot high steel spikes. Inside was a grey concrete building with a line of roll down steel doors. The doors were in a selection of rusty and painted finishes. In the compound outside of the garages were piles of tyres and rusting vehicles in various states of decay. Several of the units had large waste disposal skips outside full of rubbish that seemed to well from within, fill them to the brim and overflow onto the concrete on the ground around them.
Hicks drew the car up to a one of the roller doors and stopped. “I am going to open the door now, if you try to run or get away I am going to hurt you and hurt you real bad. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand, I won’t run” Tariq said.
“Ok, good lad.” Hicks smiled at Tariq as he got out of the car.
The roller door was locked at the side with a combination key pad. Tariq watched Hicks walk to the lock and punched in his combination. He held a button down on the pad and the electric motor grudgingly burst into life. The door edged up slowly inching away from the concrete floor. Bright artificial light ran out from below the door. Tariq watched the slow exposure of the inside of the lock up. The lock up was deeper than he guessed it would be. It took a few minutes for Tariq to understand what was different about the back of the lock up. The first section, was simple concrete floor and grey concrete block walls. But the back section of the lock up appeared to be a pale blue gloss, it had a shine to both the floor and the walls. He finally recognised what the blue colour was. The rear of the lock up had been lined with plastic sheet. On the floor in the centre of the plastic sheet stood a solitary wooden kitchen chair.
Hicks returned to the Jaguar and drove it onto the concrete. He turned off the ignition and turned to Tariq. “Ok, laughing boy, time to get out and start our little chat.”
Tariq could not move, he was paralysed with fear. The colour had drained from his face. His pencil line beard contrasted harshly against his grey skin pallor.
“Oh, are you a little bit scared?” Hicks laughed as he spoke.
Hicks got out of the car and moved to the passenger door and opened it. “Step out Tariq”
Tariq tried to move but he could not coordinate his movements. “Let me help you decide if you want to do what I say.” Hicks grabbed Tariq’s hair in his left fist and held his head firmly. With his right hand palm upwards using the tip of his longest finger and index finger he traced the strong line of Tariq’s jaw line. His touch was light and fluid, a smooth lover’s caress. When Hicks found the sharp angle of Tariq’s strong jaw line he used the gentle fingers and pushed hard against the inside of the mandible. The skilled touch of the former Special Forces soldier found the tangle of nerve fibres and the lymph node that made up the pressure point. He jabbed his finger against them and pressed hard. The flash of pain illuminated Tariq. Tariq’s body went rigid with the pain and he exhaled sharply. The level of pain was something that Tariq had never experienced before. He instantly felt mentally confused as the shock had run straight through the nerves and into his head. “That hurt?” Hicks asked the obvious question. “Ok, well if you don’t want more then you best get out of the car”. Hicks did not allow Tariq time to answer after the question.
Tariq swung his legs out and stood unsteadily on the concrete. As he stood on the concrete his bladder voided with fear, the hot stream of urine coloured his mid blue trousers dark and pooled at his feet. He felt ashamed and afraid.
“Let’s have a seat shall we?” Hicks lead him on to the plastic sheet to the chair. “Sit down, sweetheart” Tariq sat quietly as directed. He watched Hicks with wide open, dark fascinated eyes.
Hicks walked across the plastic sheeted floor and to a large plastic storage box at the back. The box had been placed underneath the plastic sheeting. The sheeting seemed to flow from the box, the inside was lined with the plastic. From the box he lifted out some old newspaper and a five litre chemical container. As he walked back past Tariq he spoke again. “Dear me, don’t want you leaving any of that tell-tale DNA here amongst your cocaine riddled piss do we now?”
He placed the newspapers on the puddle of urine to and on top of the newspaper he poured some of the contents of the chemical can. Tariq could smell the strong bleach as he watched the fluid drain from the container. He continued to watch Hicks as he returned the container to the storage chest. Hicks placed the container back in the box and lifted something else out. He was not sure what was in the hand of the man in the grey track suit. Tariq watched Hicks as he walked back towards him. It became clear that the item in the Hicks’ hand was a mobile phone. Hicks lifted the phone to his ear. He could only hear one side of the conversation.
“Hello Black …. Yeah I have him … no not yet….I need a clean-up …. Yeah a Jaguar car… give me two hours.”
He turned and spoke to Tariq, “Ok sweetie, let’s talk.”
Tariq spoke “Ok, what do you want to know”
“Where is Rhianna?” Hicks spoke quickly and quietly.
“I can’t tell you” Tariq felt he had scored a point.
“Ok, this is how this works, I ask you a question and you tell me the answer. Do you understand?”
“I really can’t tell you.”
“I haven’t got time to fuck about, I am not playing games.”
Hicks took a step towards Tariq and crouched directly in front of his face. “Tariq, you leave me no option.”
Hicks stood back and with his open left hand he slapped Tariq on the side of the neck. The explosively powerful slap was aimed at a pressure point on the side of the neck. The aim was critical, if the impact hits too far forward the slap could damage Tariq’s windpipe and kill him. Too far back and Hicks could damage his hand on the hard cords of muscle or neck bones. The slap compressed the flesh in his neck causing a shock wave of pressure to penetrate the nerve clusters. If Hicks weighted this too hard then one slap would render Tariq unconscious.
Tariq let out a shout of pain.
“Where is she?” Hicks was calm when he spoke.
“Fuck you, cunt” Tariq spat back.
“Good, I like that, shows some character.” Hicks said.
Hicks hit Tariq again, this time he used the heal of his left hand and struck the man in the cheek bone. The thin skin over the high cheek bone split open. The cut bled heavily and immediately.
“Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you” shouted Tariq.
“Ok, we will have to be a bit more subtle wont we. Looks like you have had a spanking or two.”
“I am not going to tell you a fucking thing, you will have to kill me” Tariq was anger, his dark eyes flashed with fury.
Tariq was not secured to the chair, up to now only his fear had kept him seated. But now his anger overcame his fear and he stood up. He was on his feet for only a second before Hicks struck him hard in the sternum using the point of his left elbow. The wind was smashed out of Tariq’s lungs as the overwhelming pain of a cracked rib pushed him back into the chair.
“Very naughty, Tariq.” Hicks spoke in a calm and easy manner. Hicks walked back to the plastic storage box in the corner and returned to Tariq carrying a carpenter’s chisel and four more plasticuffs. He crouched in front of Tariq. Hicks secured him to the chair with the plasticuffs. Tariq could not move, tied down by the ankles to each chair leg and at each elbow to the vertical back of the chair. “Tariq, I have here a chisel, I have sharpened the edges as well. Do you see it?”
“I see it”. Said Tariq. Hicks held the chisel in front of Tariq, The bright edges were razor sharp.
“I am going to use the sharp edge to open the skin on the front of your leg and the point will get dragged along your shin bone. The pain will be excruciating. It’s a method that was used by the Russians in Afghanistan.”
Tariq looked at the chisel and looked at Hicks again. “You don’t understand, if I tell you then they will kill me and maybe my family.” He was pleading with Hicks, “I can’t tell you.”
“The thing is Tariq they won’t get a chance to kill you because I will kill you this morning. You have a choice whether you want to die quickly and with little pain or whether you want to visit hell and die in a world of pain crying for your mother.”
Tariq closed his eyes, he started to sob. His life was coming to a very finite conclusion. His hopes and visions for himself, his ambitions and aspirations were ebbing away.
“Do you want money?” he asked.
“Money made from having little girls fucked by gangs of old men? By drugs being pushed into the town? I don’t want your money, you filthy fucker.”
“I want to know where Rhianna is, you tell me that and the pain can go away, you will fade into my darkness and slide away”. Hicks bent close in front of Tariq’s face as he spoke in quiet and defined words.
“I can’t tell you where she is.” Tariq sobbed, his large dark eyes pleaded for his life, begged to be spared.
Hicks looked straight into his eye, into his soul. “Ok, let’s do this then, I don’t have all day.”
Taking the chisel in his right hand and using the sharpened bevelled edge on the long side of the blade he slit open Tariq’s trouser leg from the knee down to the hem.
“I am going to ask you one more time, where is Rhianna?”
“Fuck you, white trash cunt”. Shouted Tariq in defiance.
“Ok, any time you want me to stop you just need to start talking to me and I will stop and listen”. Hicks used the edge of the chisel and pressed it into the dark tight skin on the front of Tariq’s leg. As he pressed onto the leg the skin parted easily and the blade entered the fine sheath of muscle covering Tariq’s tibia.
Tariq looked down and he saw his blood flowing dark and easily from the wound, it ran down his shin and into the top of his shoe where slowly it pooled behind the little dam that each of his laces made before flowing over the top and trickling down the instep of the shoe. He watched in fascination as his very blood formed a pool that slowly, slowly rolled out it’s boundary across the plastic sheet. The pool expanded under the bright neon light of the unit. Tariq was surprised how little pain he felt. The chisel was razor sharp and cut through him easily, almost surgically. He looked down at hicks who squatted in front of him. Their eyes met. Tariq could not fathom the darkness behind the easy eyes of Stuart Hicks.
“Not too bad?” Hicks smiled.
What sort of man could smile whilst he did this? What sort of man knew how to do this? Tariq smiled back at Hicks. “No, not bad. Not bad enough for me to tell you what you want to know, anyway.”
“Ok Tariq, you have it your way” Hicks looked down at the large vertical wound down Tariq’s leg.
With the forefinger and thumb of his left hand he held the wound open. He looked into the wound and carefully using the very sharp tip of the chisel he again made a vertical incision down the same line as the first. This incision opened the sheath behind the muscle. And again Hicks pulled the layers of Tariq’s leg apart. The skin, peeled back over easily, the muscle was tough, Hicks thought that Tariq must work out or do some sort of training to make his muscle this tough. The smooth white length of Tariq’s tibia was exposed.
“Tariq, I want you to watch what I am doing, I will be upset if you look away” Hicks knew that if Tariq was watching the chisel parting his flesh he would be so much more susceptible to the pain that would be overwhelming him in just a few seconds. Tariq looked down, his attention fascinated by what was happening to him.
“If you want me to stop then you tell me ok?” Hicks said again.
“I can take this you fucking white bastard”. Tariq growled.
“Gosh, I could be offended by your racist language” Laughed Hicks.
Taking the chisel back to the top of the cut he again held the skin apart with the fingers of his left hand. He placed the corner at the very tip of the chisel against Tariq’s shin bone. He struck the back of the chisel with the palm of his left hand firmly. Tariq screamed in agony as the shock of extreme pain overtook his body and mind in wave of pure desperation.
“No, no, no please don’t, no more,” he cried.
“Shall we talk?” Hicks continued in the professional detached tone of one who does not give a damn about the pain of his fellow man.
“Fuck you!” The steel point of the chisel was embedded just a couple of millimetres in the bone. Slowly and precisely Hicks twisted the blue plastic handle of the chisel. The tip of the chisel pressed hard against the bone under the torque of Hicks’ grip. The level of pain that Tariq felt was ratcheted up. He had never felt anything like this. When the chisel caused a small chip of bone to shear away from the tibia in a long splinter he let out another scream of pure agony and fear.
“Shall we talk?”
“Ok, will you let me go?” Tariq’s voice was a small echo lost in a gale.
“No, but you won’t have any more pain”
“She has gone to a unit in Rotherham, 19 Stadium Court.”
“Thank you” Said Hicks “what time are they all due over there?”
“They won’t be there until ten, maybe later”. Tariq looked straight up at Hicks “If you let me go I will cut you into the deal, you can have what you want and I will never tell about this”
“What you will never tell?” Asked Hicks.
“No, I will never tell a soul, let God help me” Pleaded Tariq.
“What about security?”
“None, will you let me go?”
Hicks pulled the chisel out of the deep wound in the front of Tariq’s leg. He stood up straight and walked behind Tariq. “My legs were aching with all that squatting down. Although probably not as bad as your legs ache.”
Tariq didn’t speak he sat looking straight forward in the chair, the relief of the cessation of his torture softened the pain throbbing from his fractured shin bone. The tip of the chisel felt cold as it touched the back of his neck just above the hairline.
Hicks held the chisel over the atlas joint precisely with his left hand. He formed his right hand into a fist and with the bottom of his hand like a hammer he thumped the chisel handle on the end. The razor sharp Sheffield steel of the blade smashed through the skin, ligaments and muscle, the tip divided the atlas joint where the skull meets the spine and the cold steel severed the nerve. Tariq’s legs twitched against the bonds as the few confused signals from his severed spinal cord ended.
The pain left him, the sharp pinch in the neck was over in an instant signalled a sudden detachment from the pain in his leg. In the seconds before the darkness enveloped him he heard Hicks’ voice say “you will go to Hawiyah”. There was no pain, there was only darkness, Tariq did not see heaven or hell, he saw nothing, nothing overwhelmed him and he became part of it.
Hicks looked around, this part of the mission had been accompanied easily.
Tariq was dead on the wooden chair in the middle of the garage, his blood had been nicely contained on the plastic sheet. He was quite pleased, there wasn’t much blood. The less spilt the less time in clearing up.
He reached into his pocket and using the remote control of the Jaguar he opened the boot. Walking over to the Jaguar he looked in. Hicks was surprised at the room inside. Much more than he had anticipated, really good accommodation for such a car. He returned to Tariq and taking hold of the back of the chair he dragged him across the plastic sheet and lifted him into the boot, still taped to the chair. The boot would not shut. The chair was just too big. Hicks didn’t mind that too much, the cleaner would deal with everything like that.
Hicks rolled the plastic sheeting from the garage floor back and into the large plastic storage box. He placed the box in the Jaguar and as he did so he opened the driver’s side window and closed the door. Standing beside the door he stripped off his tracksuit. Underneath the tracksuit he was wearing a set of paper, disposable overalls, he stripped those off as well. He was in his running kit underneath.
Just inside the unit door he had placed his trainers in a bag on a previous visit. He slipped the shoes on his feet and waited for the cleaner.
The seven and a half ton curtain sided lorry arrived at the compound exactly on time. Hicks spoke to the driver. “Hello, can I help you?”
The driver replied “I am from Mr Black’s cleaning company”
“Ok, can you back up to unit five please?”
The driver did as he was asked and within a few minutes, the Jaguar had been dragged onto the back of the lorry.
“I will deal with it” The driver said to Hicks.
“Thanks mate” Hicks shut the door of the garage and jogged steadily out of the compound and back towards the town. It was a nice morning. The sun was shining now. The town starting to wake up and people were starting to move about now.